Residents skeptical as officials explain chemical cleanup plan - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Residents skeptical as officials explain chemical cleanup plan

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- State and federal officials say they'll begin cleaning up the neighborhood around the old Black Leaf chemical plant later this summer.

But residents are skeptical about whether enough is being done to make their homes safe.

State and federal environmental officials met with the residents at St. Stephen Church to explain the cleanup plan. But most of them seemed not to like what they heard.

Marvin Hayes loves to garden. But for years, he has grown his vegetables in pots instead of in the ground.

"If they say contamination's there, I want to kind of back off. So, I've been backing off just for health reasons," said Hayes.

The cause for the concern: Hayes lives next door to the old Black Leaf chemical plant.

The factory was abandoned years ago. But left behind -- dangerous chemicals including pesticides, lead and arsenic which have contaminated the soil.

"Everybody over here is getting anxious and thinking they're just taking too long to do something," said Hayes.

Hayes and many of his neighbors came to this meeting looking for answers.

Federal and state environmental officials laid out their plan to decontaminate 77 homes immediately adjacent to the plant.

"We're going to offer to clean up the soil in their areas. It's a voluntary offer. People are not obligated to do it. It's something they can choose to do or not to do," said Bruce Scott, Kentucky's Commissioner of Environmental Protection.

But residents are skeptical, wondering why backyards are being treated and not front yards. And why the source of the problem, the factory, is not being cleaned up.

"It's like a machete cut, and you're trying to put a Band-Aid on it," said Hayes.

Officials they say they've taken steps to prevent any recontamination. And as for the plant itself. That may eventually play out in court.

"If that is to be cleaned up long term, we'll have to be dealing with the potential responsible parties that we're in negotiation with. And that will be part of litigation matters that will proceed on that front," said Scott.

But that will take time. Perhaps years.

In the meantime, the home cleanup will begin in August and take about 3 months. The estimated price tag, up to $1.5 million.

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